The Serpent's Gaze, Book Two: Slytherin's Secrets

BY : DictionaryWrites
Category: Harry Potter > General > General
Dragon prints: 210
Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter and the characters therein belong to JK Rowling; I'm playing in the sandbox, as it were, whilst claiming no ownership and making no money.

Summer that year in Little Whinging, Surrey, is hot. Harry sweats a little as he kneels outside, lips pressed together as he focuses on the wood fence in front of him. Dudley's idiot friends had cracked part of the frame away last week, and now Harry carefully nails it back into place. There are only four pickets that need to be replaced, and then he'll start about painting them white.

A white picket fence, in Harry's mind, only adds to the comically cartoonish state of Little Whinging's perfectly manicured lawns and flowerbeds, but Aunt Petunia had had it installed in January.

"Are you nearly done, boy?" demands Uncle Vernon from the doorstep. Harry holds the hammer in his right hand, closing his eyes for just a second to keep from snapping at the man.

"Nearly, Uncle Vernon. I'm just going to nail the last two panels in place, and then I'll put on the first coat of paint."

"The neighbours can see you."

"Can they?" Harry whistles. "I never realized."

"Don't you cheek me!" Harry rolls his eyes, lining up another nail, and he ignores Uncle Vernon as he stomps forwards, body rolling gelatinously under the brown fabric of his jumper and cheeks quickly purpling. Harry hammers the nail into place, carefully, and then he holds the hammer in his lap, looking up at Uncle Vernon with mockingly expectant eyes.

As soon as Harry had entered 4 Privet Drive upon his return from London, Uncle Vernon had snatched his trunk from him and thrown it under the stairs, locking the latch with a newly bought padlock. Only Harry's Muggle shopping bags and Hedwig had been permitted to accompany him up the stairs to Dudley's second bedroom, and all Harry actually had to entertain him inside were a few Muggle novels Mrs Granger had bought him as an early birthday present and the set of wizard-themed, Muggle playing cards that had made him laugh when he'd seen them in one of the charity shops.

Before driving him to Little Whinging from London, the Grangers had accompanied Harry in buying some extra reading material in Diagon Alley, as well as more parchment and quills, but they'd also gone through different charity shops in the Muggle part of London. Harry had picked up some Muggle trousers, t-shirts, jumpers and shoes that wouldn't raise eyebrows as much as Dudley's ridiculously over-sized hand-me-downs, and he and Hermione had also picked out some different Muggle paperbacks - Mr and Mrs Granger had said they didn't read enough Muggle fiction at school, and Harry didn't think they were wrong. The cards had been a 50p afterthought, and he'd just thought the pictures of black-robed sorcerers and bright green witches were funny.

Three days into the summer, unable to do his homework, read any of his new magical books, and left to do chores outside, Harry's really beginning to lose patience with his Muggle relatives.

"Can I help you, Uncle Vernon?"

"You'd better not be doing- doing- that." Harry stares up at him. His wand is tucked into his jean pocket, and while he'd received a note explaining the illegality of performing magic outside of school, keeping his wand to hand isn't against any rules.

"I can stop fixing the fence if you really want me to," Harry says dryly, "But I feel like Aunt Petunia might be annoyed."

"You know what I mean!"

"What?" Harry asks innocently. "Magic?" Vernon gasps, going such an extreme shade of purple he looks like he might spontaneously transmogrify into a plum.

"Don't," he growls, "Don't you say that word!"

"Spellwork? Sorcery? Enchantment?" Vernon stamps his foot hard on the ground, shaking his fist, but Harry doesn't even flinch. What's the man going to do, hit him? Lock him inside? Kick him out of the house? Harry could only be so lucky. Vernon stalks back up the path and into the house, slamming the door so hard behind him that the windows of 4 Privet Drive shake, and Harry looks at the picket in his hand, frowning.

Why is he doing this? He doesn't like the Dursleys, and by no means do they like him. He doesn't want to be here, but they can't actually force him to do these chores any more than Harry could force Dudley to say please and thank you. Harry drops the piece of wood on the ground, standing up and making his way into the house.

The television is blaring in the living room, and Harry can see Uncle Vernon and Dudley's eyes focused on the television, which is showing some cars racing around a track, and Harry leans to the left, peering down into the kitchen through the mostly-closed door. Aunt Petunia is concentrated on the cupcakes she's baking, intent on making them without letting a single drop of mixture touch the kitchen counter.

Harry turns back to his cupboard and, with a short, sharp movement of the hammer, he brings it down on the padlock's edge. The cheap metal snaps under the sudden pressure, and Harry pulls it off, dropping it uncaringly onto the floor with the hammer. Both drop almost silently onto the carpet, drowned out by the loud engine roars from the television.

He grasps his trunk by its handles, carrying it sideways up the stairs without letting it hit the floor. The charm on it means that once things are put inside the trunk, they don't add anything to its weight, but he still has to carry the weight of the trunk itself, and given its big and bulky shape, it's not exactly easy to maneuver. Once the trunk is in his room, though, Harry sets it down, opening it up. In the corner of the room, perched on top of her open cage, Hedwig lets out a quiet trill of amusement.

"What?" Harry asks. "None of them stopped me." Hedwig tilts her head, looking at him in the strange, intelligent way she always does, and Harry smiles as he looks to the trunk.

The trunk is enchanted, as all of the trunks intended for Hogwarts usually are, and Harry pulls forwards the compartment intended for books, neatly putting his new Muggle books inside before he closes the compartment back. Each compartment is visible as a leather strap sticking out of an apparent drawer in the side of the trunk, but once he pulls it out, it expands and lets him add or remove objects. He opens up a compartment he hasn't used before, and he folds his new Muggle clothes inside. He never bothered to pack his things into dresser or wardrobe in Dudley's room, which are overfull with discarded junk, and it's nice to have his stuff in its proper place. He thinks about throwing the plastic bags the Muggle purchases had come in away, but then he shrugs, folding them and putting them in with his Muggle clothes.

With that, he removes some parchment, quills and ink from the bottom of the trunk, and he begins to write.

Dear Hermione,

Sorry for the delay. The Dursleys locked my trunk up once I
got into the house, and I just pulled it out from under the
stairs. They're probably going to have a little fit about not
being able to withhold my evil magic stuff away from me, 
but I can't just do chores all summer and pretend I'm not a
wizard.

Hope your summer's going well, and write me back with
what you're up to! I'm probably gonna start on that Potions
essay tonight - I just wish the library in town was anything
like as useful as the one at school, but I guess we have to make
do.

Speak to you soon,
Harry

He shakes the parchment to dry the ink a little bit, and then he starts another letter.

Dear Fred and George,

Hey, guys, hope you got home all day. I hear someone confiscated
that toilet seat from you on the train, which is a real big shame - 
I feel like it would have been a really good thing to mount on the
wall, you know, kinda like how like people mount hunting trophies.

D'you think you guys would be able to teach me to pick locks
the non-magical way? I've seen you guys get around padlocks that
way, and I just had to smash a lock here with a hammer. My aunt
and uncle locked my trunk out of the way, and I'd just like to know
a subtler way to uh, you know.

Defy my relatives, like any good kid should.

Hope Percy hasn't murdered one of you yet,
Harry

He puts a friendly note to Mrs Weasley with the one for the twins, tying the two up together, and then he ties all three to Hedwig's leg. "Hey, drop Hermione's off first, and then take the Weasleys', okay? I'm gonna write some to the Malfoys, and I need to write Amelia Bones about recommendations for defence books next year." Hedwig replies with a quiet hoot, giving an affectionate nip to Harry's cheek.

"Boy!" Harry hears Vernon thunder from downstairs, and he runs across the room, sitting down on his trunk. Uncle Vernon throws open the door, staring at Harry furiously. "You're not keeping that up here!" Hedwig hops to the windowsill, and Harry glances at her.

"Well, the thing is, Uncle Vernon, Hedwig's just about to take off some letters. She's going to go to some friends I have, you know, and it's not against the law to withhold my stuff or anything, of course. But the thing is, if my friends were to get these letters from me and then not get any more, or if you were to take my trunk away from me, they might worry. And they might show up at my house to see me, check in on me. In their... Robes." Behind Vernon, Petunia gasps, looking horrified. Vernon growls, and he slams the door shut without saying anything more.

Harry and Hedwig meet each other's eyes. "I think that went quite well," Harry says. "Don't you?" And with that, Hedwig flies from the room.

No one bothers to give him any chores after that. Harry joins the Dursleys for meals, eats quietly and leaves. He does the dishes if he sees some in the sink, but both Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon do their best to avoid Harry, and so does Dudley. The reason for the latter might be because Harry takes to reciting gibberish under his breath as soon as Dudley steps into his vicinity, but Dudley avoids him, which is the most important thing.

For the next few days, Harry stays in his room, studying the new books he'd bought and doing his homework. Occasionally, he'll play solitaire, and upon fiddling with the machine for a little while, he'd even managed to get Dudley's abandoned, handheld radio to work, and he listens to the radio. It's really nice, listening to the radio - occasionally the Slytherins would gather around a radio in the common room to listen to a play or an interview, and now and then they played a Weird Sisters record or something, but Muggle music is so different to the wizard stuff, and the radio announcers take their jobs a little less seriously.

He doesn't receive any letters. He's not angry or upset, but he's... Uncomfortable. With the number of letters he sends, how could it be the case that everyone would stop sending him letters at once? His Prophet arrives weekly, just as usual, but there's never any post.

A week and a half into the summer, Harry makes his way downstairs, picking up the phone from its place in the hall. He doesn't know why he isn't receiving any post, but he knows that it isn't right, or normal, and he knows it shouldn't be going on.

"What are you doing?" demands Uncle Vernon.

"Uh, using the telephone. I'm only calling London, so it shouldn't be too expensive, but I can give you the money if that's a problem."

"You can't use the phone," Uncle Vernon says, and Harry watches him for a second.

"You'd rather I walk into town and use a public payphone to call one of my wizard friends?" Uncle Vernon seems to consider this for a second, and then grumbles out a word that might have been "Fine." before he shuffles back into the living room. Harry punches in the number, and then he holds the handset to his ear, leaning against the wall.

"Granger residence," comes the answer.

"Hi, Mr Granger, it's Harry Potter," Harry says. "Is Hermione home?"

"Oh, of course, Harry, give me a moment-" Harry hears Mr Granger call upstairs for Hermione, and he hears the sound of her steps on a stairwell before she comes to the phone.

"Hi, Harry. Are you okay?" Hermione's voice sounds slightly sleepy, despite it being nearly 4 in the afternoon, and Harry expects that for the summer she's started staying up later than healthy to finish books, and he can't help but be amused.

"Uh, yeah, I'm okay, but did you get my letter? I've sent some to you, the twins, Mrs Weasley, and then Draco, Blaise, Theo, a lady I know in the Ministry, Padma Patil, Afifa- I've sent off loads of letters, but I've not had any responses back at all. And I know it could just be a coincidence, because I'm still getting my paper, but..."

"I've sent you a letter, Harry," Hermione says uncertainly, "The twins said they'd sent you one too, and I don't know about the rest, but Padma always writes back really promptly, doesn't she?"

"Yeah," Harry says. "She does."

"This isn't normal, Harry," Hermione says, and Harry sighs into the receiver as Hermione confirms that he's not just being paranoid about this. It's going to be a long, long summer.



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